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Sera from animals infected with Borrelia burgdorferi isolates yield intense immunoblot signals from the B31 ErpA/I/N and ErpB/J/O proteins, which have apparent molecular masses of 19 and 60 kDa, respectively. Since B. burgdorferi proteins with those molecular masses are of immunodiagnostic importance,
Lyme disease patient sera were used in studies of B31 lysates and recombinant B31 ErpA/I/N and ErpB/J/O proteins. Immunoblot analyses indicated that only a minority of the patients produced antibodies that recognized the tested B31 Erp proteins. Southern blot analyses of
Lyme disease spirochetes cultured from 16 of the patients indicated that all these bacteria contain genes related to the B31 erpA/I/N and erpB/J/O genes, although signal strengths indicated only weak similarities in many cases, suggestive of genetic variability of erp genes among these bacteria. These data indicate that Erp proteins are generally not the 19- and 60-kDa antigens observed on serodiagnostic immunoblots.